Many things change after you have a baby: schedules, sleep time, and a sense of freedom, to name a few. Along with a changing schedule, there are many physical changes you’ll see. Chief among them is stretch marks. For many women, stretch marks are as much a part of having a baby as diapers and feedings.
Anatomy of a Stretch Mark
Stretch marks happen when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This causes the elastic fibers just under the surface of the skin to break, resulting in stretch marks. You gain about 30 pounds during the 9 months you are pregnant, says Heidi Waldorf, MD. She is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Like scars, they’ll fade, but they won’t disappear completely. Stretch marks happen in pregnancy when your skin layers stretch over your fast-growing body. You may have them on your tummy, bottom, thighs, and breasts. Though it won’t get rid of the stretch marks, it will help to tone the area.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks are a result of skin stretching and an increase of cortisone in your system. Cortisone is a hormone naturally produced by your adrenal glands. However, having too much of this hormone can make your skin lose its elasticity.
Stretch marks are common in certain circumstances:
- Many women experience stretch marks during pregnancy as the skin stretches in numerous ways to make room for the developing baby. This continual tugging and stretching can cause stretch marks.
- Stretch marks sometimes appear when you rapidly gain or lose weight. Teenagers may also notice stretch marks after a sudden growth spurt.
- Corticosteroid creams, lotions, and pills can cause stretch marks by decreasing the skin’s ability to stretch.
- Cushing’s Syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and other adrenal gland disorders can cause stretch marks by increasing the amount of cortisone in your body.
Who Gets Stretch Marks?
About 90% of women will get them sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. If your mother had stretch marks, then you’re more likely to have them too, since genetics plays a role.
What medical treatments are available for stretch marks?
Stretch marks often fade with time. If you don’t want to wait, there are treatments that can improve their appearance. However, no treatment can make stretch marks disappear completely.
There are several ways to improve the appearance of stretch marks:
- Tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova) works by restoring collagen, a fibrous protein that helps give your skin elasticity. It’s best to use this cream on recent stretch marks that are red or pink. This cream may cause skin irritation. If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t use tretinoin cream.
- Pulsed dye laser therapy encourages the growth of collagen and elastin. It’s best to use this therapy on newer stretch marks. Darker-skinned individuals may experience skin discoloration.
- Fractional photothermolysis is similar to pulsed dye laser therapy in that it uses a laser. However, it works by targeting smaller areas of your skin, causing less skin damage.
- Microdermabrasion involves polishing the skin with tiny crystals to reveal new skin that’s under the more elastic stretch marks. Microdermabrasion can improve the appearance of older stretch marks.
- The excimer laser stimulates skin color (melanin) production so that stretch marks match the surrounding skin more closely.
Medical procedures and prescription medicines aren’t guaranteed to cure stretch marks, and they can be expensive.
Is it Possible to Prevent Stretch Marks?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent stretch marks but It’s always a good idea to keep your skin hydrated with a rich lotion or cream. The only thing possible is making stretch marks fade.
The good news is that stretch marks may simply disappear on their own after weight loss or childbirth. Over time, stretch marks fade to whitish colored scar and become less noticeable with time. While some stretch marks naturally fade to faint, silvery lines, others remain darker and more showy. The condition is only skin deep and hence easily reversible. According to the University of Maryland medical center, they may disappear completely when the cause of skin stretching goes away.
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